Monday, November 24, 2008

The White Side of Tuscany: Vermentino

There's more to Tuscany than red wine.

In recent years, the region has been producing more whites to keep up with rising demand. While wines made with grapes such as Vermentino and Vernaccia may never eclipse Sangiovese in the popular imagination, that can be a boon for people looking for good value Italian wines.

The 2007 Rocca de Montemassi Calasole, for example, is a very good QPR example of the Vermentino grape and what it can do in Tuscany. I received my bottle as a sample, but it seems to be going for between $9 and $12 in the market. Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles introduced the grape into the US in 1993, and has been prized for its acidity and citrusy crispness.

In the Rocca de Montemassi bottling, the grape's zesty profile was clear. There was a lot of acidity in this wine, but there was also abundant fruit which helped to keep the wine in good balance. Aromas of pear, apple, and lemon pith were fresh and lively and they translated into bright, fruit flavors as well. If you've shied away from inexpensive Italian whites in the past because you found them harsh or bitter, you don't have to worry about feeling that way with this bottle.

The label suggested that shellfish was the perfect partner for this wine, and we chose to make pasta with crab and shrimp tossed in a golden saffron and cream sauce. The acidity and freshness of the wine worked well with this dish, and provided an excellent counterpoint for the richness of the cream sauce.

I think what most impressed about this wine was that it wasn't trying to be something else. It wasn't trying to be oaky Chardonnay, or big and bold. Instead, it was happy to be a tasty, well-made, and well-priced wine that is excellent with food. With all that going for it, who needs anything more?


Amy Atwood said...

I was just thinking which Italian white I should take for Thanksgiving. Vermentino it is then.
Who's the cook at your house? Your daily menus almost outshine the wines:)

Anonymous said...

the vermentino from cantine lunae remains one of my all-time favourite italian white wines, despite the fact that it's ligurian, not tuscan.

i think vernaccia di san gimignano deserves an honourable mention as a great tuscan white as well.

Dr. Debs said...

Amy, you're too kind about the food. I love to cook--it's my major form of therapy each day apart from yoga. But the recipes have to be easy and fast--like this one. Glad to help with the Vermentino. And Enzo, Vernaccia is coming up in a few weeks. I have a bottle I'm really looking forward to trying.